Elements of an Effective Artist Website

Creatives and Business earth_and_magnify_glass

How will you be found on the internet and how can you create a great viewer experience that will keep people coming back?

In the article, Artists – Why You Need a Great Website I took a look at how important it is for you to have a web presence for your art business.  In this article I explore some of the things or “elements” that make an effective website and web viewer experience.  Your overall goal for your web presence should be to provide the best viewer experience which connects with your audience, keeps them coming back and makes them want to tell their friends about you and your art.  Just like any marketing activity such as advertising or public relations, your website needs to cover the basics.  Three important areas to consider in developing an effective web presence include:

  1. The choice of your website address
  2. A strategy for your content
  3. Key website design elements and functionality

It starts with your website address

Your website address can have a large impact on your overall web success.  With millions of websites it should come as no surprise that the really good website addresses such at www.theartgallery.com are already taken.  Here are some tips if you are in the process of getting a URL or thinking of adding a new one:

  • Ideally the name should be descriptive and tell something about your business – like WesternArtSculptures.com.
  • Keep the name as short as possible but long enough to identify what you do or who you are (I think a name like www.creativesandbusiness.com may be getting close to being too long!).
  • Try to avoid words that are easily misspelled, made up, too complex or can easily be confused (again a name like www.creativesandbusiness.com contains the word “creatives” which probably won’t be found in any dictionary).  Make remembering and typing     in your website address an easy task.
  • If you can stay away from cute suggestions like adding “my” or a “the” to the front of an existing web address.  Don’t do this unless you have a very good reason to do so, such as it is the name of your business.  These are similar to the old yellow page strategy of adding A, AA, AAA, AAAA etc. to the front of a business name – like A Plumbing Company, AA Plumbing Company, AAA Plumbing Company…
  • If you can avoid URL extensions (aka Top Level Domains – TLDs) such as .net, .info, .biz etc. this may be a good strategy as most people expect a .com extension.  There may be uses or situations where nonstandard extensions are appropriate – be sure to carefully consider the pros and cons before you choose your TLD.
  • There are a multitude of Top Level Domains (TLD) extensions that may be available for your web address.  The original TLDs are the familiar .com, .net, .org, .int, .gov, .edu and .mil.  Today there are over 700 TLD extensions that include things like: .gallery, .photo, .photography, .band, .beer, .actor, .boutique, .business, .camera, .dance, .help, .horse, .luxury and .museum just to name a few.  Sadly the list to date does not include extensions such as .art, .artist, .sculpture, .sculptor…
  • Make sure that you don’t infringe on others’ trade names or trademarks – do not make this mistake!  Be especially mindful about adding a prefix such as “my” or “the” etc. to an existing business name or trademark – a url such as “mycoke.com” would most like create problems for you.
  • If you are looking for a new URL I suggest you first Google your proposed name.  This will tell you if the name is taken and if there are other names which are similar.  You can use free services such as those provided by Godaddy.com to search for and then purchase your website address.

Content is King!

Website Content Calendar

Create a Content or Editorial Calendar to keep your website fresh and up to date

A good book cover may get you interested enough to take a look inside but if you don’t find content that is interesting or engaging, you will probably put it down and move on to something else.  Websites are no different.  Today your customers and prospects have millions of choices of where and how they spend their time online.  Some ideas to keep in mind about content:

  • Keep your content focused on your customers and prospects.  It is imperative that you know your customers and provide content that will engage them – what are their hot buttons?
  • Keep your content fresh and give your audience a reason to keep coming back.  Artists have an advantage in that they can involve the audience as a work is being created and provide a background story on the art or artist
  • Keep your content interesting, enjoyable and relevant and perhaps your readers will pass it on to others they know.  People like good content and if you get people sharing the exposure to you and your art will grow rapidly.
  • Publish content that is useful, entertaining, informational and appealing – give people a reason to visit your website – think viewer experience!
  • Make use of graphics, photos, video and audio where appropriate and not just for the sake of having something to fill a space. Be sure to showcase your work!
  • When using the graphics or images created by others make sure that you are not infringing on their copyrights or trademarks. There are many sites where you can license stock photos or images as well as sites like Wikimedia Commons and OpenClipart where you can find public domain as well as Creative Commons License media.
  • Keeping your website up to date with fresh content requires a bit of effort.  You might consider creating a Content Calendar or Editorial Calendar to help you plan ahead the stories you will be adding or other changes that you have planned.
  • There has been a view that stories or articles on the web should be short because a website visitor typically does not have a lot of time or patience to read long articles.  Today this view is being challenged because many websites are finding that longer articles are their most popular and widely shared.  You should explore what works best for you.

Key elements in design and functionality

Rubiks cube

Just like in putting together a puzzle, an effective website has all of its pieces fitting together

As with any form of publication or marketing it is important to follow some basic rules with regard to design, content and functionality.  Here are a few things you need to make sure you have right:

  • A good website title or headline that immediately connects with your audience, one that is to the point and is not confusing.
  • An easy to read website with little clutter and text sizes/fonts that don’t strain the eye.
    Easy navigation to find other pages or move around using methods that are likely to be familiar to your visitor.
  • Effective graphics and images that support your content that are well executed.
  • Effective writing to get your points across that is not too wordy or hard to understand.  Don’t forget to check your spelling and grammar!
  • A design that will support viewing from mobile devices such as phones and tablets.
  • A design that will allow your web pages to load quickly.
  • No roadblocks for your audience such as requiring them to register to view your basic content.
  • If you use multimedia such as video or audio, make sure that it isn’t annoying to your audience, makes your pages load slowly or otherwise detracts from you main purpose or message.
  • If you are using your website to sell your products or services make sure you follow the advertising basics of having a headline, your story and a call to action.
  • Make it easy for people to contact you for more information or purchase your products.
    Allow for comments or interaction with your website visitors.
  • Include social media functionality that allows your visitors to connect with you on social media and easily share your content on their social media channels.

The bottom line(s)…

Today you face a lot of competition to attract customers and prospects to your website and keep them coming back.  Make sure you have a memorable website address, your site can easily be navigated and most important – have great content!

If you would like to learn more about preparing your own business and marketing plan, building your art business and selling more art I invite you to check out my book – The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox. Good Luck!


Neil McKenzie is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver where he teaches “Marketing the Arts”.

Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto

2 thoughts on “Elements of an Effective Artist Website

  1. Bill Swartwout

    Thank you, Neil, for providing excellent advice and a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts. I have much of that in place but with a slight twist. Except for local shows and galleries I do not produce my own art photographs for resale. For that I use a Print On Demand (POD) company (of which there are several) that provides a web presence for sales and the ordering and fulfillment process.

    I have a personal photography blog with the URL being my name (dot com) and a second URL (US Pictures dot com) that redirects to the site provided by the POD company. The domain is generic and “fits” fairly well because I mainly do outdoor, scenic and travel photography. It is working well. On social media and a couple or “local” websites I promote both my photo blog URL and my photography sales URL. Nearly all of the photos on my photo blog are linked to the “main” URL of my sales site and it does drive a good bit of traffic to the POD site. Every (small) photo I use on social media is watermarked with my name and the URL of my sales site.

    I do that in case something happens to my current POD supplier (a former one is large and was successful, but is about to implode) so I can switch to another provider and not have to adjust any of my marketing efforts. I’ve always believed to not put all the eggs in the same basket – or commit all of my work to the same supplier.

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